Footwear giants adidas have always been searching for the next innovation in sporting footwear design and manufacturing, and they seem to have struck gold by employing mass 3D-printing to create their new Futurecraft 4D project.
Last month, Silicon Valley-based tech firm Carbon 3D launched their SpeedCell, a system of 3D printing that opened up possibilities for complicated and complex designs to be produced on a mass scale. Since this proved successful, adidas has taken their “Digital Light Synthesis” (DLS) process on board to mass-produce the Futurecraft 4D range with 3D-printed midsoles on a scale that was unfeasible with existing manufacturing systems.
By the end of 2018, adidas are hoping to create 100,000 pairs of the Futurecraft 4D that will incorporate the sophisticated technology, and still having them incorporate the sophisticated technology that has defined the brand’s most recent sportswear innovations.
“With Digital Light Synthesis, we venture beyond limitations of the past, unlocking a new era in design and manufacturing,” says Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board Member Responsible for Global Brands.
“One driven by athlete data and agile manufacturing processes. By charting a new course for our industry, we can unleash our creativity- transforming not just what we make, but how we make it,” Liedtke said.
Digital Light Synthesis involves ultimately printing the kind of high-performance, durable polymeric products that adidas typically use in their best products on a mass scale much more quickly. The process involves projecting digital light through an oxygen-permeable membrane onto liquid polymer resin, which solidifies when exposed to the radiation of the light into the pattern the light dictates.
Not only can this process mass-produce complex and intricate structures at up to 100 times the speed of other processes, it also has the potential to create what were previously geometrically impossible structures that have beneficial effects on product performance.
What this represents is a massive leap forward in commercial manufacturing methods which could well redefine the way clothing and footwear are mass-produced by hundreds of companies in the future. The process will currently be restricted to the big brands due to the expense the DLS incurs, but once it becomes feasible for smaller businesses, it could well lead to a complete manufacturing revolution in the clothing and fashion industries.
Similarly, the ability to bend the laws of geometry in its creations may lead to the DSL ushering in greater innovation in design. When creation of outlandish ideas becomes feasible in reality, the designers can have more license to find the next big innovation.
Unfortunately, the Futurecraft 4D is not up for public release just yet. adidas are currently producing a very limited number for friends and family of the company, with the chance to create 5,000 more for a public release later this year. A proper full-scale release will follow shortly after that, so don’t lose hope! Watch this space for any developments.